Smart Parking Meter Strategies
Money Saving Tips & Tricks For Surviving Chicago’s New Meter Rates
With the parking meter lease deal finalized, and the rates of parking meters being increased meter by meter and neighborhood by neighborhood, Chicago drivers need to employ some smart strategies for adapting to higher rates and increased enforcement.
Here are some smart parking strategies that will help you survive these higher meter rates in the midst of a recessionary economy.
Keep an eye out for meters which still have time remaining.
Piggybacking on someone else’s quarter or quarters is always a great way to save money.
While not all meters are the same, most meters with time remaining, do not exhibit a flashing readout. You should be able to tell from your car if the meter is flashing or not. So if you have your pick of meters, of course, pick the one with time still on the meter.
A broken parking meter is a thing of beauty.
Inoperable meters are, by far, the best parking spots you can find.
Broken meters don’t have to be fed and you can’t be ticketed for parking at one. Finding a broken parking meter is like stumbling upon a $5 on the street, or finding some cash in a jacket pocket you haven’t worn since last Spring. Finding a broken meter to park at is a gem of serendipity that can make your day.
Busted meters are a bit harder to spot while driving as a dead meter exhibits no readout, while an inoperable meter will flash either FAIL and/or OUT OF ORDER. But up close, it’s quite apparent when a meter is not working.
If you park in the same area regularly, locate the broken ones and make a habit of snagging those spots.
Unfortunately, while currently, there seems to be a dearth of inoperable meters on the streets of Chicago, the new lessee has all the motivation in the world to keep their new toys working all the time.
Seek out parking spots on streets which are generally metered…that don’t have a meter.
These spots are more numerous than you think. I come across areas that have meters on one side of the street, but not the other. Or streets that have meters for the majority of the street, but not at the very end.
You just have to train yourself to keep an eye out for these perfectly legal spots that are meter-less and therefore cost nothing and have no time restriction.
Of course, these spots are always the most in demand.
Higher meter rates are inevitably going to push people from meters onto nearby side streets. It only makes economic sense that people will always see the least costly alternative. Parking on non-metered side streets is free, which is infinitely cheaper than parking at a meter.
The main barrier to side street parking is the potential of facing residential permit parking. Look out for any signs that restrict your ability to park on a neighborhood side street. Being ticketed for a residential parking violation is more??? costly than an expired meter ticket.
But, parking a block or two away from where you need to work or shop for a few hours is going to be worth the walk, especially if you can save a few bucks.
Perhaps, if the new, higher parking meter rates make it too expensive to drive, and public transportation is a viable alternative, perhaps the CTA is a way to go.
Parking Garages & Lots
Downtown, the option of parking garages or lots vs. metered parking becomes a matter of simple cost/benefit analysis.
For example, parking for just an hour at a meter is only $3.50, less than what most garages or lots would charge. But, four hours of metered parking is $14.00 and perhaps a lot or garage is a less expensive option. At some point, garages and lots become the more affordable alternative.
I have heard rumors of places that have free parking and much lower sales taxes. In whispers, people call them “the suburbs.”
In the suburbs, they don’t have 10.25% sales taxes or $3.50 an hour parking meters. Vote with your feet, your tires and your dollars. Spend your money outside the city, outside the county, out of the grasp of Mayor Daley and Todd Stroger.
There are plenty of towns and businesses that appreciate your money so much, they make it cheap, easy and convenient to do business with them.
Consider taking them off on their offer.
Feed The Beast
Please, if you do have to park at a meter, make sure you feed it properly.
Keep lots of quarters in your vehicle at all times.
Make sure you pay attention to the time and return to your car before times runs out or to recharge your meter. A $50 ticket is something everyone can do without.
Like our pal Ticketmaster says, “25 cents will save you $50.”
True wisdom friends. True wisdom.
Geek Editor’s Note: Millennium Park Garage photo courtesy of Chicago-Photo.com.